After a good Christmas day we started boxing day with an 8 mile run along the beach and deciding to stay put where we were for another day, and simply chill, use the good free WiFi and clean the van. Now Christmas has gone we were both excited at the thought of snowboarding – so the plans were set for one more night wild camping in Portugal then a long drive straight to Granada to swap change the van and change clothes from “summer” to “winter”.
Saying goodbye to Portugal is a little sad. It had been a very pleasant surprise, and the South and South West of the country is stunning. We have to say the cities didn’t overly excel, and the smaller inland villages could be ramshackle, but overall Portugal was very much worth the drive. It is unfortunate we didn’t make it to the North of Portugal but the snow was calling us!
For our last day in Portugal we headed towards Tavira where we planned to camp and look around the town. Where we were camping was very exposed and a storm was brewing, so the van was rocking which, for once, wasn’t our doing. So we headed off to a secluded spot we noticed near Monte Gordo and pitched there the night instead in, what turned out, to be a rather large puddle! Unfortunately, Mel must’ve picked up a cold via eMail from someone! Not the flu as we’ve heard some people back home are suffering from, just a runny sneezy cold. The following day we had an unhealthy drive all the way to Granada where we camped at a site and prepared for the mountain journey.
We left quite early (8:30) for Sierra Nevada as we had heard reports that due to it being peak season the roads can be chaos and closed. We must say the road up was absolutely fine – very windy but pretty much clear until the village. For once we ignored TomTom and followed the clear signage to the motorhome park which seems to take a longer way but on wider roads. However, the road differs to the bulk of the cars so were still covered in snow and ice – and here we started to slide a bit… Fortunately the road was wide and quiet enough to simply pull over and put on our snow-chains which it has to be said did the job perfectly getting us to the motorhome park safely where we joined around 50 other vans. After a couple of hours the roads cleared and remained clear for the next few days – so perhaps arriving early afternoon would be wisest.
The plan for the first day was just to get our bearings on the first day, and pre-pay for board rental and ski pass and eye up where to go. The next three days though were all about snowboarding! Having never snowboarded outside of Tamworth Snowdome, we had a lot to learn and remember, and getting off lifts proved challenging for the first day or so. At the end of the first day I did my first blue run and did a great stunt – a double back somersault with a landing that no doubt had a snowboard term attached to it. Sadly neither planned nor caught on camera and gave me a little bit of a sore head. The second day saw us both progress a bit and Mel was happily doing the long green runs focusing on getting the technique right with me as trainer, and on the third day Mel was able to turn both ways happily and was able to easily complete green runs and also complete a couple of short blue runs while taking the steep bits gently. I was able to happily do blue runs, sometimes well but other times throwing in some interesting falls – nothing too dangerous though. Both really pleased with how we improved and we know what we need to do next time – which hopefully won’t be too far in the future!
On one of my solo runs on the ski lift, I was chatting to the lady next to me, and it turned out she was friends with the guy that took us motorbiking a few weeks earlier! Not only that, but she was saying he told her of one group he took out and got stuck in snow. That was us! Fortunately she wasn’t told the group had one crap rider in it though – so I couldn’t have been memorably bad.
New years eve was a little flat – we went into the village with a view to eat, drink and party. It was pretty dead though. Most people seemed to be in groups and were simply buying beer and goodies from the shops rather than having beers out. The bars were empty or closed, and the restaurants were either closed or had expensive set meals – €100 a head – and even they were virtually empty. We just followed suit and got some beers and goodies and saw New Year in under the duvet!
The Sierra Nevada mountain range is stunning and we were fortunate enough to have glorious sunshine for 2 ½ out of 3 boarding days. The views were spectacular and it was very easy to just sit on the snow and admire the surroundings. The village itself was okay, nothing spectacular, but functional yet incredibly pricey – one shop had a packet of chocolate digestives for €5! Even we weren’t tempted by that – but next time we’ll bring a huge box of the 37p Tesco Value chocolate digestives!